The director of Save the Seed, an unlicensed drug treatment ministry, has refused to move members of his program out of an Upper Marlboro house after being ordered to leave the property more than two months ago, a representative of the owner said last week.
The owners of the house, both of whom are Army personnel stationed in Saudi Arabia, told Robert "Shine" Freeman to move out in December when they learned that he had failed to deposit rental payments into an escrow account for more than six months, said Sarah Burch, mother of one of the owners.
In addition, Prince George's County fire officials ordered Freeman to reduce the number of people living at the house in the 12400 block of Midstock Lane to no more than five after learning in early January that at least 20 people were living in the home.
Although the number of people apparently has been reduced, several people are still living in the house, Burch said. Fire officials said yesterday they are monitoring the situation to ensure that Freeman is complying with fire codes and that there are no more than five people living in the house.
As many as 54 people were living in a split-level house in Fort Washington before Freeman, a self-styled "reverend" who has no formal religious training, was ordered by the county to move his program. County officials said that they believe Freeman moved the people from Fort Washington to Upper Marlboro.
Freeman said in interviews published in August that he "detoxed" drug addicts with 10- to 12-hour Bible study sessions and that he occasionally used exorcism to rid them of their demons. Former participants in the program also said in interviews that Freeman beat people in his care. Freeman acknowledged that he occasionally struck people who "bucked him," but said such methods were necessary to maintain control of the people in his charge, many of whom were convicted felons and drug dealers.
Judges in the District and Prince George's County, as well as corrections officials, social workers and lawyers, had referred people to Freeman's program for drug treatment for at least 18 months before reports of alleged abuse and illegal crowding were publicized. Since then, the courts have issued memorandums recommending that no referrals be made to Save the Seed.
Burch said that her son and daughter-in-law arranged with Full Gospel AME Zion Church to rent the house to Freeman when they were sent to Germany. The church, which previously had helped fund the program, stopped paying rent on behalf of Freeman several months ago and has refused to help the family evict him, Burch said.
"The church is telling me that Freeman's ministry is a separate ministry, and they don't have anything to do with it," Burch said. "If it wasn't for the church, my daughter-in-law never would have rented the house to Freeman. The church is the one that arranged the whole thing, and they were the ones paying the rent."
A secretary at Full Gospel AME Church, who identified herself only as Mrs. Wright, said the church "has nothing to do with Freeman." Pastor John Cherry, the head of the church, could not be reached for comment.
Freeman said that people were living in the house on Midstock Lane, but they intend to leave.
Burch said she has filed an eviction request with Prince George's County courts, but has been told it will be several weeks before the request can be processed.